Category Archive: Comic Review

Aug 18 2014

A Bag of Marbles – Joeph Joffo, Kris, & Vincent Bailly

I should have been absolutely thrilled by this true adventure tale of two young, Jewish brothers that live off their wits in order to survive in Nazi occupied France. Sadly, I didn’t get that into it. The art is lovingly done watercolors, and the story itself is amazing, but the telling leaves much to be desired. I rarely felt the impending doom I should, time passed unclearly for me, I never got to understand how they managed to make so many street contacts so those victories didn’t mean what they should have, and I didn’t ever feel I knew the characters so well. As mentioned, this should have been one of the greatest stories ever! And yet, falls too short. 

Aug 17 2014

Batman (vol. 3): Death of the Family – Scott Snyder

NOTE: This post has been scheduled for a number of weeks, but during that time Mr. Snyder actually read one of my reviews of his work (why does that always surprise me?) and let me say that he handled the criticism with class. It is interactions like these that are useful in reminding us that criticism does not have to be personal, meaning both that reviewers should say what they believe without needless attacks and creators have to accept that not everyone is a fan–and that a reviewer has probably just as much of a chance of being wrong as they do in actually being helpful. We tend to forget, in the cyber world, that there are real people attached to the topics we write about and it is nice to be reminded of this fact. That said, here is my uncensored review that I wrote before Snyder’s post. If he reads it, I hope he will continue to see it for what it is.

I totally admit it, the fault is my own. I have not enjoyed Snyder’s take on the vigilante Batman and yet I keep reading. Maybe I thought his focus on the traditional villain, the insane Joker, would get him to produce an exciting, unique story. Sadly, Snyder fell into a typical Joker trap–no, no, what I mean is he decided he had to make the Joker as evil, twisted, and bad ass as possible to make him interesting, and the results were disappointing. Joker, who never shuts up in this story (to be fair neither does the normally taciturn Batman), is somehow able to pull off a possible triple digit death toll and defeat ever member of the extended bat family without breaking a sweat, all the while imitating early 2000′s horror flicks. The results don’t have any suspense or any cleaver twists; it is simply bad ass horror for the sake of bad ass horror. I know there will be those that are thrilled with it, but that’s why they made dozens of Saw, Friday the 13th, etc. movies. There is nothing here that makes me interested in the characters, just a lot of gruesomeness. 

Aug 16 2014

Batman (vol. 2): The City of Owls – Scott Snyder

Ok, I admit, I broke down and read this and–surprise!–it wasn’t very good. The crime fighting Batman must take on a secret society that, for no reason, decides to blow their cover and come out of the woodwork in order to take down Batman. There are two good stories in the collection: one about Mr. Freeze, that really showed his insanity and had almost nothing to do with the Court of Owls nonsense, and the other, weaker, story (although I was very glad it dealt with issues like poverty and homophobia) was about a civilian who stumbles onto Batman and her reaction to it. 

Aug 15 2014

Bake Sale – Sara Varon

I gave Varon a hard time at the Grand comic fest because I found Robot Dreams so unexpectedly depressing and Sweaterweather to not be a long enough story. She assured me this title was different. I’m not sure how to label this comic other than to say it was delightful. It’s about a cupcake that owns a bakery and has a best friend who is an eggplant. Eggplant is going to Turkey and Cupcake dreams about going along to meet her hero, the great baker Turkish Delight. There is nothing overly complex about this story, but I don’t think there was a moment I didn’t enjoy.

Aug 14 2014

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen – Lucy Knisley

I really enjoyed this delightfully drawn, colored, and told story about a woman growing up with parents that are rather obsessed with food and her own relationship with cooking and experiencing different cultures through their food. There are things I dislike about the comic: too much name dropping of famous food people (yeah, I didn’t know there were any) and I’m sure the obese foodies will use this to justify their lifestyle (“it’s not that I eat like a pig and don’t exercise, I just love food because I’m cultured”). Still, I have a major crush on Knisley and, even though my stomach issues mean that I would–literally–die if I ate some of the things she does, thought it was great that she included recipes as part of the comic.

Aug 13 2014

Dogs of War – Sheila Keenan

While these stories aren’t super-great, I was very glad to read them. Three tales of three different wars wherein dogs played very important roles–and ones you might never suspect. While in one sense I think this would be a great read for a younger crowd, interested in animals, there is a lot of harsh reality about war that might be too much for them; this is why I’m not 100% selling this work. 

Aug 11 2014

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice – Mike Carey

You have to be reading the main title of The Unwritten to enjoy this prequel (which seem to be the case for all prequels), but it is a fun little tale (or two tales) about both the–perhaps–insane author that decides he will raise a son in parallel with a fictional character he created to see if he can blur the lines between fantasy and reality. In this story, we read the beginning of the boy wizard, Tommy, and friends and their first encounter with their arch-nemesis, all the while hearing their creator justify destroying real lives for the sake of “art.” 

Aug 09 2014

Paul has a Summer Job – Michel Rabagliati

No, this isn’t about our own HTH (he never has a job). Paul has just dropped out of school and is working at a summer camp. Sounds pretty dull, and yet this simply drawn (and often imperfect) comic was really a delightful coming of age story, sweet and funny, and–for us old folk–poignant. Apparently, there are various other Paul titles and I will try to check them out, as should you. 

Aug 06 2014

Zine and Comic Fests

Summer time is for comics and zines. I know this because I just made it up. I went to the Grand Comic fest and Pete’s Mini Zine fest and wanted to show some pictures of the events, even if I don’t get around to reviewing everything I read from them. As a bit of a personal evaluation (other than the fact that Pete’s was so much cooler last year (mainly because AR was representing), Grand was better for comics, but the crowd at Pete’s was much more friendly and open for trading). I have a bunch more pictures of art people made for me, but you’ll have to go to the AR twitter account to see them.












Aug 04 2014

Jerusalem: A Family Portrait – Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi

A thick book and intense tale about the Jewish Halabys families who are feuding with each other while living under the scumbag British occupied Palestine during the creation of Israel. Yakin does a good job juggling the insanity of the time while presenting an array of characters with their own unique hopes and motivations without pulling punches as to their various criminal/heroic actions. I admit that there were difficulties at times keeping track of the secondary players as they comes and go and sometimes felt there was not enough to truly bring them to life as individuals (and they often look somewhat alike). Still, it is an impressive tale about a complex moment in history that affects all are lives today. 

Aug 02 2014

Justice League of America (vol. 1): The World’s Most Dangerous – Geoff Johns (Matt Kindt & Jeff Lemire)

And so here’s The New 52‘s take on JLA, which, aside from a new line up of B and C  (and even D) listers is largely the same old thing. I thought I might like to see some underused characters take on large threats, but too much of the plot is recycled, there is very little in terms of depth of character (other than name and powers you got almost nothing), hot Amanda Waller is BS, Johns has to have a board room meeting in every one of his comics, and that fact that some of the most important (and perhaps exciting) scenes are in other titles and not reproduced here, makes me give up on following this almost before it begins–and one of the reasons this review is short. So far The New 52 titles have been a real disappointment.

Jul 30 2014

Saga (vol. three) – Brian K. Vaughan

Continuing from the first/last two volumes of this title, we continue with our star crossed lovers and their mixed raced baby that everyone seems to want to get their hands on, as the rabidly growing extended family attempts to elude and outwit various bounty hunters and government agents that are so darn annoyed that Marko and Alana have decided to quit their war. As mentioned previously, I enjoy the various cast of characters, the straightforward plot, the not particularly wordy storyline, veiled and not so veiled references to our world, and female characters like look like a supermodels’ dream come true. Very enjoyable. 

Jul 29 2014

Notes for a War Story – Gipi

Gipi tells a make believe story about someone making a movie about those who fought in a war (which Gipi made up for a make believe country) in such as way that it might as well all been true (and is probably based on the Yugoslavian civil war). We follow the lives of a group of kids–and they really are just kids–as a war shatters their lives and leads them into a world of crime and back to war again, which is Gipi’s ways of pointing out that the two are really the same thing. The art is unusual, very sketchy with a splash of ugly color, and not something that I would not normally care for, but then again I normally don’t like war stories where everything is based on something fake to make a statement, yet everything works together so well here that I got sucked in. Oddly, I will also be the first to say that the story is a little slow and boring at times, but, again, that’s what life in war can be: incredibly dangerous one second coupled with periods of mundane nothing. I liked it, and considering you can read it in a very short time, I strongly suggest you do. [Note: My thumb is not actually part of the cover.]

Jul 28 2014

Girl Genius: (Book 8) Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones – Phil & Kaja Foglio

For absolutely no good reason this volume was not written up by me and instead I skipped to book 9. So here it is far after the fact: The heir to the mad scientist family that at various times was loved and feared throughout Europe, has returned to her ancestral home and the (once) all powerful, mechanical castle. Unless she can use her (mad) scientific genius to get the castle to acknowledge her lineage and fix the castle’s defenses, her enemies shall destroy everything. This section of the series (where Agatha is in Mechanicsburg) becomes the longest of the series as the story will continue in this setting for many volumes to come. Is that a good thing? Well, it depends. I do love the story and this one is still great and the setting still exciting and new. 

Jul 26 2014

Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman

A stand in for Neil Gaiman tells the story of going out with friends and the unusual events that come out of what at first seems to be a very dull, mundane evening. Not a bad little tale, although I’m pretty sure I had read it before so, apparently, it didn’t stay with me very long. I do HATE the plot devise of an author writing a story about a character that clearly is the author–what? as an author you don’t have what it takes to come up with a character that isn’t you?! 

Jul 25 2014

Batman Incorporated (vol. 1-2): Demon Star & Gotham’s Most Wanted – Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Ug, more from the “new 52″ to disappoint. What a sloppy comic that introduces us to this idea that the crime fighter, Batman, is using his money and influence to assemble a world wide network of people who work for Batman to solve crime and protect the innocent, only that doesn’t work out very well and the daughter of a villain (and former lover of the Batman) seeks vengeance through the use of the son they had together. Explosions, action, betrayal, pain and suffering, people die, aargh, oh wow, etc., but there are so many characters in this story who I both do not know anything about or care about in the slightest, action that is motivated by stuff I am vaguely told about, and plot that is just F/X on a still page. So, what I’m saying is that while Morrison is considered a god to so many, I find nothing redeeming about this comic as there is really nothing here. “A tale told by an idiot…” 

Jul 23 2014

Batman (vol 1): The Court of Owls – Scott Snyder

Somehow unknown to the world’s smartest man and greatest detective in history, the vigilante, the Batman, a group of people calling themselves the Court of Owls have really run his home city of Gotham for generations. Why? How? And more importantly, why do they decide now is the time to come out and exert their power and make themselves known to the Batman? I have no idea as not much really happens in this comic except that the Batman kind of gets stomped, which I suppose is comic talk for “wow, how tough!” Wow, how about explaining some motivation? The only thing that really interested me was the very brief exposition that the newly orphaned, pre-Batman, Bruce, actually did some detective work to search for the Court of Owls as a kid. That actually sounds like it could have been a fun tale. Instead, we have this with art that makes about four characters all look like Bruce, and a motiveless mystery. So much for the new 52. 

Jul 22 2014

Heck – Zander Cannon

Hector discovers that his house has an entrance to Hell. Naturally, he opens a business wherein he goes to visit damned souls and get information for those they left behind. This story is simply drawn and, in a way, simply told (in that the exposition given in chapter one could have been three graphic novels, it was so flush with interesting material). There were elements I did not like in this tale, for example, Hell is based on Dante’s Catholic version so probably everyone you ever met is going there; and there were elements I thought were missing, for example tons of backstory about Hector’s earlier visits to Hell; yet when it is all said and done, Cannon wants to tell a very specific story about loss, redemption, and false appearances and in that he does a nice job. 

Jul 19 2014

Americus – MK Reed

Ok, here’s the pitch: This kid–Neil–is growing up in a crappy little town in middle America. Raised by his divorced mom, he struggles to fit in but his best/only friend (who is gay) is sent off to military school because of their interest in a fantasy series. Now this book series starts a controversy and some of the town folks want to ban it, but reading is like the only thing that keeps Neil sane, so what’s going to happen?! Yes, it does sound like a great pitch and deals with a lot of controversial issues of book banning and the role of libraries, etc., and Neil growing into himself, but the pitch and the actual story are not the same thing and the heavy handed book banning issue, Neil’s outcast status, and the idea that all these young guys are interested in reading a series with a female protagonist (teen girls will read about a boy hero but not the other way around), just isn’t very interestingly written despite the interesting idea. Sorry, it should have been up my alley but wasn’t. 

Jul 18 2014

Nowhere Men

Imagine a world where scientists are revered like rock stars. Scientists Ellis, Grimshaw, Dade, and Strange are the equivalent of the Beatles, not only in their popularity with the public but also in their genius and—ultimately—their inability to remain together.

Interweaving faux advertisements, books, and magazine articles with the comic pages, writer Eric Stephenson shows us how thoroughly this alternative Fab Four have affected the cultural mindset. The story is compelling, but I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. While I certainly appreciate not having all my plotlines telegraphed, I had the nagging feeling that this could be one of those books that has a great set up but crashes and burns in the third act. Stephenson focuses so heavily on the personalities of the main characters that he leaves little room to show any actual science—I’m not entirely sure what they’ve actually accomplished much less why they rate the “super genius” label. Similarly, although artist Nate Bellegarde does some fine character work, his settings and backgrounds are sparse at best. Where are all the gadgets and, you know, science stuff? How is this world any different from our own? Is it only the choice of pop icon?

Nevertheless, Nowhere Men 1: Fates Worse Than Death is certainly worth a read, and I’m happy to see it alongside the other amazing work Image Comics is pumping out in its (gasp!) third decade. I’ll certainly seek out book two.

Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (w), Nate Bellgarde (a), Jordie Bellaire (c)

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